Ever since states began legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, there has been the question of whether it can cause a person any trouble to try and smuggle legal weed on a plane. There have been countless reports published on this subject over the past few years, most of which seem to indicate that it is a relatively riskless feat to challenge airport security to sniff out a bag of dope – at least in legal jurisdictions.
Regardless, most folks in possession of marijuana still get pretty nervous during the pre-flight screening process. But is there really any cause for concern?
In Massachusetts, for example, it is now perfectly legal for adults 21 and over to be in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. A recent report from the Boston Globe indicates that there are no rules at Logan International Airport prohibiting peopl>e from bringing weed onto airport property. But since marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a federal agency, cannot allow anyone to bring weed aboard a plane. Instead, anyone caught with pot is simply referred to the state police. Still, as long as the passenger is at least 21-years-old and the amount they are holding does not exceed the possession limit, the cops have to let them go. What’s more is they cannot seize the weed or paraphernalia.
So now the matter is back in TSA’s court. But the agency still has absolutely no interest in cracking down on people for pot.
“We would not retain drugs in the same way we wouldn’t retain fraudulent IDs or credit cards — we would kick those over to law enforcement,” Mike McCarthy, a spokesman for the TSA, told the Globe. “Our agents do administrative searches, not criminal searches.”
“Our officers are looking for any item that could cause catastrophic harm to the aircraft,” he continued, “but, as part of their duties, if they detect anything that they believe to be illegal, they will refer the passenger and the baggage over to local law enforcement, and it is up to local law enforcement how to respond.”
So if law enforcement in a legal state cannot do anything about marijuana found at an airport and TSA agents are unwilling to deal with it, then is the passenger simply free to board a plane with marijuana after the heat dies down? Probably not. TSA agents would certainly prevent that person from traveling until they have ditched the weed.
A couple of years ago, “amnesty boxes” began to appear in a Colorado airport in an effort to give travelers a chance to dispose of marijuana before entering the security gates. Interestingly, a month after this system was implemented, all of the boxes remained unused – completely empty. Apparently, people would rather risk a slap on the wrist than not travel with marijuana. Either that or they are simply leaving it at home.
So here’s the rub: As long as a traveler is flying out of a legal state, the worst-case scenario is that dealing with police and TSA over the matter could cause them to miss their flight. If the weed happens to be discovered in an area of prohibition, however, that person could be arrested and/or fined.